Working in technology has plenty of potential, but it takes time and dedication to gain the necessary skills to become a productive member of an international industry
While still lagging behind the IT sectors of its neighboring countries, the Kingdom’s computer software sector is on the rise and, developers are beginning to take advantage of tech opportunities which may be a gold mine for the country’s computer literate youth. Besides a fairly small domestic market for computer software, experts say outsourcing computer programming provides much more room for expansion.
“We will see programming, web development and software applications in specialized areas, especially outsourcing to other countries,” said Trevor Sworn, Executive Director at Yejj Group.
“The infrastructure is what will likely keep many companies away at the moment, but we have the human potential,” wrote Chris Brown, a self-taught programmer and co-founder of Mango Map, a company that offers geographic information system solutions.
Golden Gekko, a new firm, based in the United Kingdom (UK), that develops mobile applications with high profile clients such as Coca-Cola and Disney, has ventured into the East by opening its Asia headquarters in Cambodia’s capital city. In late May, Golden Gecko hosted a meeting with more than 20 local computer programmers to exchange best methods of coding, signalling a need for a newly born technology community to share and grow together.
In an email reply, Daniel Karlstr?m, Golden Gekko Founder and chief operating officer, wrote that their engineers in Phnom Penh have developed “applications for mobile phones - Java, iPhone, Android, Blackberry and server systems for mobile applications” for their “main market in the UK.”
A software engineering job, which requires fluency in both English and programming languages along with tech skills, is ideal for young professionals to pursue a career which is relatively new to Cambodia and long dominated by highly skilled people from other countries.
Multinational companies like Yoolk, which has hosted web-based Cambodia Yellow Pages since 1995, “look for candidates with the correct foundation of skills and attitude along with knowledge so that a year of in-house training will get them to the stage where they can generate a profit from their inputs,” said Chris Brown.
Conical Hat Software sales manager Hong Ly said in an interview with Lift that “accounting software is the company’s most popular product with customers in the country such as Ministry of Agriculture and partner organizations of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.” Started in 2004, the software -development firm, which partners with Microsoft UK, has made software for European and American markets, in particular the UK.
Conical Hat manager Chris Brown said that although he usually recruits “graduates with three to five years of experience,” he added that “Some of the best programmers I’ve ever met are self -taught with no formal IT qualifications. I myself am self -taught. At college I studied architecture and surveying, but dropped out before the end. Unfortunately not all employers in Cambodia are so forward- thinking, so I’m not recommending that others choose my path.”
Every year more than 500 graduates leave the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) with bachelor degrees in computer science said Ponn Chhay, vice rector of the university, whose institution offers bachelors and master’s programmes in the field.
Other training on web development is also available in the Kingdom, and it doesn’t take four-years to finish. The Center for Information Systems Training (CIST) has built a reputation for training poor Cambodians to be skilled, qualified professionals capable of working for private firms and non-profit organizations within two years.
Yejj Group, a social enterprise company with expertise in IT solutions and training, has its own approach to hiring by investing in developing human resources rather than trying to find employees who are already trained. The company, established in 2001, has “a specific focus on building capacity and experience of young people, so we partner with organizations like CIST to provide employment opportunities and invest in career development rather than ‘buy in’ at a higher level,” said Trevor Sworn in an email interview.
With experienced trainers, mostly recruited from Institute of Technology of Cambodia, CIST trained about a hundred disadvantaged adults from rural poor country to become system network administrators and web developers. Sahak Nimol, CIST company relations department coordinator, said last week that “80 percent of our students can secure jobs a month after they went through our intensive training that included a six-month internship program.”
Tep Puthyrum is one of CIST’s former students. Currently he is a web developer for KhmerDev, a software company that established in 2001 by a French national to write software for France-based markets. “At the moment I work on a project to build a web-based Human Resource Information System for the Office of the Council of Ministers, which will be used to manage all government officials,” the 21-year-old developer told Lift in an interview.
Though experts in the industry admitted that the places for learning and working within the IT field needs improvement to compete with global competitors on a large scale, recent improvements have been drastic. Trevor Sworn said that “we have seen an increase in the technical and communication skills of graduates we interview. They are more enthusiastic and willing to learn.”